Monday, October 22, 2018

Top Ten Favorite Literary Villains

I'm linking up with That Artsy Reader Girl for another Top Ten Tuesday.

For this spooky month of October, we're talking about our favorite villains from the books we've read! I picked some who aren't just stereotypical monsters, like Dracula, but who are written with the kind of care and complexity that makes them that much creepier.

1. Amy Dunne (Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn)
It's hard to imagine a character who's more coldly calculating and chillingly brilliant than the woman at the center of this thriller.

2. Dolores Umbridge (the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling)
I think Umbridge is the favorite villain of the series for many because unlike Voldemort, who's clearly evil, Umbridge is on the side of the "good guys" and is given power in the name of protecting Hogwarts students, which she exploits to its full extent. This makes her deeds more insidious because she can argue that everything is done in the name of safety and education.

3. Henry Winter (The Secret History by Donna Tartt)
I hope it isn't too spoiler-y to include him on this list! What's great about his character is that you start out on his side, seeing his point of view, until suddenly you realize that following his train of thought to its logical conclusion means that no one is safe anymore.

4. Iago (Othello by William Shakespeare)
Sometimes the worst person is not necessarily the one who harms another, but the one who sets the whole thing in motion with subtle insinuations and sly suggestions. Agatha Christie explored this at greater length (but less complexity) in Curtain, but Shakespeare did it here first.

5. Ledroptha Curtain (The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart)
There are a lot of clever aspects to Mr. Curtain being the evil twin brother of Mr. Benedict, but he's also just a great villain himself. His machine sends subliminal messages that cause everyone to feel like there's some imminent unknown danger, so they live in perpetual fear without being able to pin down why this time is any more dangerous than the past — sound familiar?

6. Miss Trunchbull (Matilda by Roald Dahl)
Miss Trunchbull is a great character because she exemplifies every kid's experience of that one teacher or administrative who's just completely unfair and mean but whose job is somehow protected — except turned up to an absurd extreme, where she's literally locking kids in a closet full of broken glass and no one (but Matilda) can stop her.

7. Mrs. Danvers (Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier)
Danvers is super creepy because she's outwardly welcoming to the second Mrs. de Winter, but then you come to find out she is actually obsessed with the dead Rebecca and is trying to manipulate Rebecca's husband's second wife into meeting her ruin.

8. Old Nick (Room by Emma Donoghue)
Sometimes the scariest villains are those based on real-life criminals, like the people who have actually kidnapped and imprisoned others for years. Seeing Old Nick through the eyes of a 5-year-old makes him into a one-dimensional, almost mythical character, but it means we don't risk humanizing someone who commits such a heinous crime.

9. Piper Greenmantle (the Raven Cycle series by Maggie Stiefvater)
You think that Piper's husband is the true villain of this series, but then it turns out that he's no match for his vain, self-centered, seemingly lazy wife who steps in to take over destroying the world when it's clear that he's not going to be able to pull it off. She's an awful person and yet an amazingly funny character.

10. Rosalind Devlin (In the Woods by Tana French)
I do not want to spoil anything, but I will just say that she knows how to manipulate not only other people but the entire crime investigation system to her advantage.

Who are your favorite literary villains?

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: The Secret History and Midwives
Five years ago I was reading: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and Roots
Ten years ago I was reading: Black Boy

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